Ailing Wizards hope to repeat Colorado performance

two games in five days and travel to Panama.

Zavagnin's replacement, Jack Jewsbury, is questionable with shoulder problems and a slight concussion. Add in Tony Meola's continued absence from his goalkeeping spot and Igor Simutenkov's hamstring strain and the Wizards might have to be even more resourceful and inventive in Denver Friday night when they take on Western division foe Colorado Rapids.

Midfielder Jewsbury's status is understandably still in question owing to its origin.

"I just blacked out the other night. I went up for a header, followed through, and bumped heads. I landed a little awkward. [We thought there] might be something wrong with my neck, but I got a CAT scan. Everything was cool there. My shoulder's a little messed up, bump and bruises, but hopefully nothing too serious," Jewsbury said.

The second-year player has been the first called upon to fill in central midfield spots like Zavagnin's all year, now an adjustment may have to be made. One candidate to step into an area in the midfield is regular left back Jose Burciaga, Jr.; however, Burciaga revealed a different possible solution.

He said: "We were looking at Nick [Garcia], Diego [Gutierrez], 'Cisco [Francisco Gomez], Wolffie [Josh Wolff] [in the midfield], and Taylor [Graham] on the right [in place of Garcia on the backline]."

The above scenario is designed, presumably, to provide the necessary balance between attack and defense needed in a complete midfield. But Burciaga will not hesitate to contribute in front of goal from his left back spot as proven by his overlap and subsequent shot that led to Wolff's game-winning goal in the Wizards 1-0 victory Saturday against the MetroStars.

"He's [coach Bob Gansler] been encouraging me and Nicky to join the attack when it's appropriate, if I have a chance to take a shot to go ahead and shoot it. I'd rather take one shot too many than one shot too little," Burciaga said.

Being capable of attacking from various positions on the field will certainly aid the Wizards as they try to repeat their 1-0 victory in Denver back on June 9 when Wolff converted a penalty kick in stoppage time for the win, Colorado's only home loss this season.

On the other side of the ball, the Wizards have yet to concede a goal to the Rapids in two previous home and away matches. They will have to be wary, though, of the trio of Wizards killers -- striker John Spencer who leads the Rapids all-time against the Wizards with eight goals, three assists, right winger Chris Henderson who has stacked up six goals, six assists against his former squad, and former Wizards left winger Mark Chung who has accumulated three goals and two assists against Kansas City.

Once again, the 22-year-old Burciaga figures to be at the heart of the effort to limit their effectiveness.

"We just need to keep doing what we did last time, which is to just take [Spencer] out of the game," he said. "You can take him out of his game, he gets tempered real quick."

Burciaga continued: "Last game I had to mark Henderson but I pretty much have an idea of what he's doing. I know he's a runner. I know he's going to [put the ball] by me and just run by me, but I think I did a real decent job on him last game."

Burciaga's confidence does not erase the fact that the Chicago Fire recently used a similar system with speedy wingers like Chung and Henderson to expose the Wizards' team defense in their decisive 3-1 victory on September 1.

However, the resourceful Wizards have come through this season as they are the only club with 11 victories to their credit. A 12th would give them some needed cushion in the tight Western conference race and enable them to get healthy before their schedule serves up three games in seven days, including the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final against the Fire on Sept. 22, beginning at home against the San Jose Earthquakes on Sept. 18.


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